That title up there? *points* I know it’s cliché, but that’s because it’s true – and that’s great news for your writing! Yes, really. Bear with me for a minute. It’s great news because as soon as you discover something that you didn’t know before, your work can grow by leaps and bounds almost overnight. Writerly “tics” I’ve seen recently:
- Favorite words. If your characters are staring, grinning, or nodding their way through your book, readers will notice – often before you do.
- Favorite punctuation marks. Exclamation points and em dashes are likely culprits here. I’m overly fond of both, myself, and reducing their number is often a specific goal when I self-edit my own work before sending it to a pro.
- “Words to use instead of said.” Several wonderful writers and editors have already written about this at great length and much more eloquently than I about why not to do this, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel, but here’s the gist: said is invisible, and invisible is good. Unusual dialogue tags draw attention – and they’re drawing it away from wha the character actually said and onto your description of it. Instead of describing how something was said, choose words that leave no question You know what? That’s a whole post on its own. Next time!
- Short choppy sentences. They look fine when I’m writing them. I know what I’m saying. The scene is playing out in my head as I write.There are several things happening at once, or in sequence. Each one needs to be pointed out. Otherwise the reader won’t see what I see. But is this the best way to do it?
- Dialogue tags that aren’t. This can be related to avoiding the word said, but not always. It’s often connected to actions, as in “We should order pizza,” she grinned. Or, “You never let me get anchovies,” he growled. Well, no. Have you ever tried to talk while growling? Try it. We can’t really growl sentences, and we definitely can’t grin them.